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Pocho (feminine: pocha) is slang in Spanish used in Mexico to refer to Mexican Americans and Mexican emigrants.[1] It is often used pejoratively to describe Mexican expats or a person of Mexican ancestry that lacks fluency or the ability to speak in Spanish, and knowledge of Mexican culture.[2] It derives from the Spanish word pocho, used to describe fruit that has become rotten or discolored.[3]

The term can refer to the following:

  • A Mexican American or expat who can speak little or no Spanish.
  • A Mexican American who speaks Anglicized Spanish, colloquially known as "Spanglish".[4]
  • A Mexican that has emigrated from Mexico and settled or naturalized in another country.
  • A Mexican that travels or lives outside of Mexico for an extended period of time. e.g. Mexican students studying abroad.
  • A nickname in Argentina (Pocho or Pocha). For example, the popular Argentine president Juan Domingo Perón was called "El Pocho" as well as the Argentinian football players Ezequiel Iván Lavezzi and Federico Insua.
  • A 1959 Chicano novel by José Antonio Villarreal.

Pochos are usually identified by their use of poorly-spoken Spanish. Code switching and the use of loanwords is common as is the use of phrases popular in American culture translated to Spanish, sometimes literally. Code switching often involves inserting English preposition or objective nouns, such as, "Voy a ir shopping ahora en el supermarket" (I am going shopping now at the supermarket).

Modified loanwords are referred to as "pochismos". Examples include mopear for trapear (to mop), troque for camion (truck), parquear for estacionar (to park), or chequear for mirar or verificar (to check, to inspect or to verify). A clear example of a popular American phrase that has been adopted by people familiar with both cultures would be Clint Eastwood's famous quote "Make my day", which has been increasingly used in Spanish as "Hacer mi día."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States: Anthropology, Volume 4 By Nicolás Kanellos, Thomas Weaver, Claudio Esteva Fábregat (1994) pg.182
  2. ^ Romero, Abril. "Hispanic, Latino, And Other Words You've Been Using Wrong Your Whole Life". culturacolectiva.com. Cultura Colectiva. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  3. ^ "Pocho". SpanishDict. Curiosity Media, Inc. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  4. ^ D'Amore, Anna Maria (2009). Translating Contemporary Mexican Texts: Fidelity to Alterity. New York: Peter Lang. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-4331-0499-2.

External links[edit]

  • Definition of pocho
  • "A Note on 'Pochismo'" by William E. Wilson, The Modern Language Journal, Vol. 30, No. 6 (Oct., 1946), pp. 345–346 (Available online at JSTOR - membership required)